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These are the letters we have been sending to family and friends since we started with the dates they were sent.

Jan 13th 2000   3pm

We have been at sea for 24 hours and are enjoying gentle sailing in sunny conditions and almost flat seas. We had to motor for the first 20 hours but with a flat sea it was a good introduction for everyone and an easy first night threading our way through the oil rigs and fishing boats. No ships seen now since first light - just plenty of clean ocean.
We are 157 miles out , at 20deg 07 North 116deg02 East.
Almost all the equipment seems to be working Ok but there are some systems to looked at this afternoon.
It is a relief to finally be away after the delays of waiting for the fridge to be finished and the 1001 last minute jobs and purchases we thought of.
We should get to Subic Bay in Philippines Saturday night. We will keep you all updated.
The Crew of Sea Biscuit IV

Jan 17th 2000  9am
We arrived in Subic Bay yesterday midday, taking just under four days for the trip. All are well, including Sailor the cat. We had motored for the first day in calm and flat water, sailed the second in fresh winds and increasing seas, motored sailed the third in dying breeze and a lumpy sea and then motored the last in flat waters and no appreciable wind. We did spend the last night ghosting along at 1-2 kts in almost no wind as the water was still and we had a fishing net stuck to the hull and prop. I went into the water to look at it in the dark but all I could see in the net was small shark so thought better of clearing it in the dark. I put a dive tank an day break and cleared it, the shark had disappeared.
We have a few repairs to make, a broken fuel pipe, leaking steering pump but nothing serious and no more than expected. So we should leave Subic tuesday and be in Puerto Galera Wednesday.
Anne and Sean are getting into their study routine already, but found it hard to study when the sea was a little rough - they will have plenty of time at anchor to catch up.
I am picking up mail from both the Mersey and pacific.net.hk accounts but have set a filter to 4k so anything longer I won't see, till much later.
The Crew Of Sea Biscuit

Jan 25th 2000  9am

To all,
We left Subic Bay a week ago after getting the fuel line repaired and some provisioning. The 'yacht club' there seems unsure if it is a hotel or a country club, but very little 'yachty about it. The wind was not as forecast and we had to motor sail most of the overnight trip with some very lumpy seas off Manila Bay, but then a great sail at dawn across the Verde Island channel to Puerto Galera, which is very picturesque natural harbour on the very north end of Mindoro island. There is a very yachty-yacht club here, recently reclaimed by the members from a manager and busy with friendly helpful people.
Having been here 6 days now we have a routine for the kids to study in the morning, Norman to do maintenance work, and then shore trips or diving in the afternoon. We have done some guided dives with Asia Divers and Anne & I have made two dives on our own, yesterday with a video camera which has produced good results.
I has been very windy and wet for three days, but looks like brightening up now. Even getting ashore in the dinghy has been a very wet business. We will leave here on Sunday for the trip out to Palau, which is about 800 miles and will take about a week.
Thanks to Fi, Tania, Mick Boston, Don , Bartons, MulUpneys, Maggie Law, Senior Bartons, Halls, Richard Cornwallis and John Kidd for e-mail received.

Feb 1 2000, 1 pm

Off Mainic Village - Banton Isl. 12 55N 122 03E 1st. Feb.
Well the pilot books what to weather expect on average in a particular sea and season. This is just not an average year - a powerful winter monsoon stretches from Korea to Malaysia. So being south of Manila in the Sibuyan Sea has not protected us, it has been blowing hard for a week and showery as well.
But we needed to make a move to find out if we could follow our plan to take Don to Palau, about 840 miles from Puerto Galera. So Sunday afternoon we set sail and motor sailed through the night out of the Verde Passage -across Tablas Strait to Marinduque. We found a patch to anchor off a beach at 2am as we had decided after 12 hours in F5-7 winds and 2-3m seas that enough was enough. SB IV takes it very well and we made good progress, but it is not comfortable. We got a weather forecast from HK by Internet and it offered no change - so we decided to abandon the trip to Palau, with such strong NE winds the St. Bernadino channel we needed to leave the Philippines through would have been impassable.
So we have come south, we had a great sail from Marinduque to Banton yesterday, with Don driving we reached 8kts several times. However we had a nervous night at anchor last night, it dragged when first set. Now having not dragged in 12 hours of strong winds we now feel more confident and will stay here another night before heading on down passed Tablas to Boracay.
The kids have done their home/school work, I've done some maintenance work, Don polished some brightwork and Pauline has baked bread this morning, this afternoon we can go ashore to look for the promised hot springs - the island is volcanic.
From The Biscuit


Feb 10th, 5pm

A pictures worth thousand words....

Boracay 11'57N 121'57E, We have almost been here a week now, and had only had one day of weather from the brochure, but that day produced a most amazing sunset. For the last three days we have been rolling heavily at anchor with dark skies and occasional showers. Boracay is almost deserted when it should be busy. I don't know how much it has affected business, but most of the coral reefs are a mess, the combined effects of bleaching in the hot summer of 98 and crown of thorns attacks have destroyed all the corals areas we have dived so far. but even then they are interesting, we end up looking more closely and seeing things we usually miss.
Don left us yesterday morning to make his way back to Manila and Malton. We had had some good sailing while he was with us, we had the gennaker up for the sail across to Boracay.
These pictures ? Well today Anne and I sat in an Internet cafe on the beach for 90 minutes to upload some 47 files to expand my web site with pictures and words from this trip. So go and have a look !
~www.pacific.net.hk/~hslow/ <http://www.pacific.net.hk/hslow/>
Let me know what you think.
Boracay is so different to Bantong and Tablas that we visited before. Bantong was such an isolated community with power only a few hours a day and no vehicles at all. Looc on Tablas was a prosperous little fishing and market town, seeing very few visitors so the extensive market was all for local consumption and very intriguing. Several people tried together to explain how to cook a bizarre looking vegetable I asked about - but I never got it straight. Everyone was keen to help.
So from here we are planning a course out to Cuyo island, an isolated spot at the north end of the Sulu sea, and then round the south end of Panay to Iloilo on our way to Cebu.
Rolling with the Biscuit

Feb 21st, 2000   11am

Small Islands

We left Boracay last Tuesday afternoon planning to sail overnight to Cuyo, about 90 miles. As we left it was blowing 15-20kts, but we stopped the engine as soon as we were clear of the reefs and headed SW into the sunset. initially we made 4-5 kts through the water, but the wind increased steadily and by early evening we were making 8-9 kts with 25+kts of wind. The chart plotter said we would be at Cuyo in only 8 hours but it was not comfortable, we even rolled a side deck into the water on one wave and that takes big roll with Sea Biscuit. So again we changed our plan and sought shelter behind the little island of Sibay, approaching very cautiously to find a suitable anchorage. In the morning our spot was less sheltered so we upped anchor and moved five miles west to the other end of the island to the west of a big reef area.(11 51N 121 29E) It blew 30+kts so we were there for another three days, going ashore for walks on the beach where we found many of the shells being sold in shops on Boracay. Sibay has no town or even real village - just small groups of huts on each beach area. So no power, no shops, no schools. They fish when the weather is better and collect copra from their coconut plantations. But many still spoke good english and were as friendly as ever. Their nearest stores are on Mindoro island, 5 hours away by banca in settled weather. Pauline and Hamish dived from the boat, checking the anchor and enjoying the best underwater visibility we have seen this trip.
Saturday the wind was down so we left with a choice of plans to reach across into the lee of Panay if it was still rough, or run down to Cuyo if possible, which it was and we had a good sail in dying breeze through the Cuyo island group to Cuyo itself, arriving late in the evening and making another very careful approach as the harbour is bordered by reefs both sides and the supposedly buoyed channel was not.
10 51 N 121.00 E
As soon as we took the dinghy to the jetty Sunday morning we were met by the port captain offering us any assistance we might need and we met many people interested to talk and tell us about Cuyo. The girls in the shops thought Sean was cute. It is the sort of place where everyone can tell you exactly how many foreign visitors there have been in the last 5 years and how long each stayed.
We have had messages asking for a map on the web site, apparently standard atlases don't show all these islands. I have prepared the map and I will post it to the site when I get a chance, but I will also attach it to this message.
Anne has been doing a science project to list all the major phylum's of life forms with examples, so when we are diving she keeps grabbing me to take pictures for her to add to her database to illustrate the different types of corals, sponges, fish, and the great variety of life forms we find in the sea here.
We expect to be here another few days before heading back to Panay and Iloilo on our way to Cebu.
Last evening we all went for walk on the beach to watch the sunset and found sea biscuits on the sand for the first time. Sea biscuits are also known as sand dollars, a very flat form of sea urchin which when the spines have fallen off leave a white shell about the size of a ginger nut biscuit.
On Sea Biscuit

Pt. Bonbonon, Negros 9 03N, 122 07E 3rd March
This is a most surprising hideaway, from the chart one would probably overlook it - the entrance is narrow and not obvious until within a mile, but here are 18 yachts anchored. We have seen only two other yachts since leaving Puerto Galera a month ago, so this is significant. Pt. Bonbonon is about 1 mile by half hidden behind limestone cliffs but lined with mangroves. There is no town but small shop/restaurant/club house built on stilts in the mangroves with a bamboo jetty. This is run by Nicky and Arlene who are a great couple who cannot be more helpful. Roughly half the yachts are occupied now with crews from all parts of the world - a lively crowd, including one skipper who has lived in HK and once quoted to fix the electrics on Sea Biscuit for the previous owners. Seems we will always be meeting people who know this boat. The extra adventure here is that the road is not passable by car or even tricycle, so the only public transport is Huppa-huppas which are just 150cc motorbikes. The drivers will happily pick up 5-6 passengers and 100kg of bags as well and then take off along a road that would be a challenging moto-cross course ! Sean and I came back from the nearest village this afternoon - quite enough excitement for today.
We got here after our longest sail since the passage from HK. We left a small town at south end of Panay Tuesday morning and had a splendid sail across to Negros, reaching in 20kts of wind with the genoa and reefed main. As we got in lee of Negros the wind eased and we added the reefed mizzen and staysail as it got dark and we continued along the SW coast of Negros in the dark keeping outside the fishing boats, getting here Wednesday morning in a fresh breeze.
What happened to Iloilo ? Well we set off for Iloilo on Saturday but found we would have to motor 40 miles direct into 20kts and a short sea and decided we didn't need to go that bad, turned round and instead Anne and Hamish went to climb the local cock's comb shaped hills. "Cresta de Gallo" Sunday Norman and Sean went on a bus adventure to get to Iloilo, only arriving there in time to have lunch and catch the bus back - but they had some fun and made friends with others along the way. We had stayed longer than expected at the south tip of Panay after we found excellent diving around Nogas Island and such friendly people ashore and such big waves offshore !
Going on back further, we had got to Panay from Cuyo by a night sail on the Wednesday night, another good passage where we needed little motor time. Many of the passages we need to make are best done at night to be sure of arriving in daylight and so long as there are no hazards to be avoided and a good moon sailing at night works well, with three hour watches, Hamish 6pm to 9pm, Pauline ( to midnight, Norman, 00 to 3am and Hamish 3 till 6am. Although we have yet to fix the seals in the autopilot we can still use it for short periods which makes it possible to sail the boat single handed when needed.
With luck we will leave here tomorrow morning for a quick dive at Apo Isl., then on to Lazi on Siquidor Isl. We have to move along every other day now to get to Cebu by the end of next week so Sean and Hamish can fly back to HK for the following week. Friends we have made here are familiar with the route we will follow to Sabah later this month so we are getting good information for our planning.
While I am in HK I will be able to update the web site again, so look for new pictures in two weeks.
The Biscuits


6 April

Pt. Bonbonon, Negros Oriental

We have been anchored here for about ten days since we sailed down from Cebu. Our next destination is Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, but we have delayed our departure for several reasons. 1.  It is very easy to stay here , where there is company of some dozen other yachts with people living on them, a convenient store/bar with good cheap meals, and some interesting diving just outside the anchorage.
We have now explored the sunday market in Siaton twice. It is 13km away and we all went together on one motorbike + driver on a road that is closer to a motorcross course.  No helmets available but the bike has a rosary on the handlbars so must be safe !  Apart from needing more padding at the back end the ride was fun - we have good video of it.
2. It is almost new moon so sailing at night will be very dark the next week.
3. There is another couple here planning to go the same way and also interested to dive at Tubbataha reef on the way - which is almost direct on the track and  is supposed to some of the best diving in the Philippines.  Cath and Kirk are both professional divers so their experience will help us at Tubbataha - but they need to replace their bowsprit first - should be done in another few days.

So we are also doing work on SB4, Pauline has started stripping varnish from the coachhouse and replacing with a stain finish, I have touched up the hull where paint has come off.  We have installed some fans and more mosquito nets - although there are almost no mosquitoes here.

This bay has an almost predictable NE wind during the day, fading in late afternoon to a glassy calm most nights.  The wind during te day would be ideal for our crossing the Sulu Sea, but I expect it will not reach far enough offshore - The Sulu sea is 350 miles wide from here to Balabac at the south end of Palawan.  Tubbataha is about half way across - well isolated from any larger islands which is why  it has remained less disturbed.

We had our first real thunderstorm Monday night, no doubt many more to come.

In Cebu we had a piece of wood cut and carved to cover the "Sydney" on our Stern with Hong Kong and pictures of two sea biscuits - well done work but unfortunately we found the wood had worm !  So it is off the boat and now decorates the store on the jetty here,  and we will still be taken for Ozzies.

The Biscuits

Wed  12th April 9:30am  8 52N 121 30E   The Sulu Sea

Dear All,
The friends, Kirk & Cath, we were waiting on had another set back in their repairs so we decided not to wait longer as Sarah Tucker may be in KK as early as next week - so we better be there in case.
So we left Tuesday afternoon without incident after Anne and I had been to town for fresh veg and fruit.  The wind was a bit light so we motored west into the sunset until 3am, when we found we had broken the fan belt for the newly reinstalled alternator so it was an appropriate time to sail. Passed quite a few ships last night but now just an empty Sulu sea, we are about half way, 90/186 miles from Tubbataha reef where we hope to dive before the other 260 miles to Kota Kinabalu,  The forecast seems good that we should have NE wind, may be light but right now we are sailing with the gennaker up, water maker running and kids about to get down to some school work.

Should be at Tubbataha Thursday early and KK Sunday 16th.

Cooking the Biscuit in the Sunny Sulu Sea

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia (6,03 N, 116,07E)
22nd April

Thank you to all for the emails reminding me of the birthday - I kept it quiet and did nothing wild here to celebrate, the trip itself is enough.

So you last heard from us on our way out to Tubbataha about ten days ago. We arrived off the reef very early the Thursday morning, luckily the south end was marked by a well-lit dive boat as the light house is not working - and appears to have been derelict for some years. At first light the dive boat left, perhaps for another part of the reef since it stretches about 30 miles to the north. We picked up one of several very substantial moorings provided by the japanese government from the markings on them.  Without a guide we looked carefully to see where the current was slack and Anne and I made the first dive  from the dinghy about 1km from SB4.  As soon as we looked over the wall edge we could see 2 sharks far below resting on a shelf, the visibility was at least 60m - the best I've seen anywhere. As we followed the slight current back towards te yacht we found 6 more sharks, all resting at the same depth we were so we saw them much closer and could confirm they were white tips, known for resting on sandy patches during the day. There were good sized fish swimming right next to the sharks without the sharks showing any interest so if their close neighbours were calm we could be also.  We also saw two turtles and a huge range of fish, many in bigger sizes than we see elsewhere.
When we surfaced Pauline and Sean picked us up and Sean was excited that he had seen two turtles on the surface while we were underwater.    I took Pauline for  a dive at the same site next and saw much the same except we also saw a giant reef ray, an almost circular disk shape about 3m across.  That made the sharks move off from their dozing spots !
In the afternoon Anne and I tried the west side of the reef, and again saw several sharks and many tuna, jacks and garoupas.  After that dive we took the dinghy to the only dry land on the reefs, an islet of sand about 50m long with the decrepit lighthouse and a few trees.
We spent that Thursday night on the mooring, getting better sleep after two nights of watch keeping, and Friday motored round the south reef noting that none of the wrecked ships were where the chart shows them and also that clearly ships still manage to hit the reef even with GPS available.

Then we set course for the Balabac channel between the S end of Palawan and the NE corner of Sabah, an area said to abound with smugglers , pirates etc. There was no wind - a very glassy sea - but it was easy to motor at a steady 7kts and we reached Balabac Saturday morning, seeing no activity of any kind ( and neither have the many yachts we have spoken to) and after 48hrs arrived here in Kota Kinabalu, having a great view of The Mountain at dawn.

Here we are anchored off the local Shangri-la hotel which allows us to use their pools and facilities - both Anne and Sean met kids from their schools at the hotel for Easter.

Anne agreed to tackle the mountain - since it is Low's Peak it seems to be something we should do. But it meant being up at 6am Thursday to get a bus up to the park, meet our guide and start the walk up through the rain forest towards the mountain. The weather was cool enough but as the air thinned we both found it hard work and became quite slow before we reached the huts mid afternoon having covered only 6km ! So we relaxed and talked with some of the 97 others who had walked up the same day, before early bed to be ready for a 2am alarm to have a first breakfast before starting for the summit at 3am. Since everyone is planning to be at the top for sunrise the path is an almost continuous line of climbers with torches. The path quickly becomes wooden ladders or steep steps, and then a continuous rope as all plant cover stops and the top 800m of the mountain is a bare granite dome. Luckily it was dry so secure underfoot.  The top of the mountain has about 10 separate summits, mostly near vertical stacks of fantastic shapes, fortunately the highest is more gentle and no more than a scramble.  We were at the top (4089m/13600ft) to see the sunrise, with quite a crowd of others.  Anne had doubted herself and insisted on going no further several times, but she made it and is very pleased she did. She even thanked me for bullying her to the top - but hasn't forgiven me for taking her to start with !

Now we must decide whether to go to Mulu caves in Sarawak, it seems better we fly from here than take the boat to Sarawak, or Brunei.  Sara T should be coming down to see us next week for hers and Anne's B'day, and then we will be heading back to Palawan in the Philippines.

From the Mountain Biscuits

Dalawan Bay, Balabac Isl. 7,53N 117,04E
10 May

Dear All,

Sara T was with us from her's and Annes Birthdays until yesterday, and we got to know KK and Sabah much better on several tours with her in cars and trains. I had taken the kids to Mulu caves, that was different.  There are four caves open to visitors, all quite different. The Lang cave is most caves elsewhere having superb stalactites and flowstone in fanastic shapes, especially hanging folded curtains of stone.  The deer cave is humungous, easily big enough to fit several catherdrals into, and stinks of bat shit.  From outside we watched the millions of bats fly out for their evening of bug hunting, they appear to flow out in a flying tube that writhes in the air. We also watched a hawk picking off the stragglers.
KK city - it bacme a city this year - has grown since I last visited largley from illegal Philippine migrants who now are close to half the population of Sabah.  We could still walk across the main commercial part of the own in 1 minutes, and often did as the ferry pier we used was at the opposite end from the better Satay and Randang restaurants. We needed a ferry as we took a mooriing at a resort on an island off KK and used their free ferry service to town.

So yesterday was the day to leave, after filling our fuel tanks at the very low prices and running aground on a sand bank near the fuel barge. As the tide was falling it was a troubling 10 minutes before we managed to reverse off with just lost paint from the sole of the keel band to show for it.
While moored the wind seemed to just blow in the afternoon and die overnight except for in thunderstorms, but we found good breeze when we left yesterday afternoon which held all night and by this morning we had covered 130miles under sail and it was clear this was the SW monsoon.

Again we revised our plans underway as we had set a course up thr west coast of Palawan towards El Nido, but with a roboust F4/5 of monsoon that coast looked too treachrous as it has few anchorages and many reefs and is poorly charted. (We have been told several times that there are still undiscovered wrecks of galleons to be found on the W coast of Palawan - it has always been hazardous to navigate and remains remote)
Now we are in the lee of Balabac at the S end of Palawan and wwill continue up the E coast to Puerto Princessa in a few days.

The sail here was some of the best we've had and unexpected.  Also unexpected was that when I started the generator at 6am it did not sound right, no water coming out. So had to find out how to change the pump impellor, not too hard but another sweaty hours work in the engine room, in a rolly 2m sea.  The impellor had lost one vane and it was blocking the pipe, once replaced it works well again.

The sweaty Biscuits

Taytay, Palawan
19th May

so we have two independant systems to measure  depth, and one actually measures the depth ahead of where we are, but they are both moody beasts that choose when they want to work, and that is rarely when we want to know the depth. So Okay electronics are great but they can leave me gasping trying to navigate narrow winding channels inside Dumaran island with reefs both sides and a chart that was very accurate in 1917 !

It's alright, we are at anchor in TayTay, the old Spanish capital of Palawan where we can see the old fort and town. Last night we were inside S.Verde Island which was not our preferred anchorage but forced on us by fading light.  Although a reef protected us from the south the swell diffracted round the end and hit us from a different direction to the light wind so we rolled all night and were happy to leave at 6am for todays trip.  Pauline tied off the throttle about 7am when we were clear and no one touched it till 70 miles later we were almost here.  There was little wind and we needed to cover some miles, but the inside route was interesting and Anne made several groups of shots to fix our position and set the new course.

We did spend 3 days in Puerto Princessa where we found the best market yet,  there was everything with very friendly sales people and the biggest fish we have ever seen, must have been 2m Tuna +.

We could have spent more time there but we are getting near our time limit, so we need to press on to Coron to dive the wrecks there, and on back to Puerto Galera to plan our trip home to HK.

Tonight Pauline reported we have 2 red wine bladders, 1 white, 2 bottles of champagne and about 8 bottles of red so we seem well stocked for the last six weeks !    We had great steaks toight from beef norman bought in HK in December -  the freezer system works very well for stuff buried deep.

Motoring North on a Biscuit

Coron  12 N 120,12 E
28 May 2000

Two weeks ago now we took a family group from a coastal village out to an island 15 miles out.  There was the father and several of his 5 daughters some grandchildren and friends.  They had bought crabs with them and it was a fun day,  Generoso, the father, confided in me he knew where japanese WWII gold was buried on the island, but I have not been let in on several 'secret' locations for this gold - they all seem to know where it is but none of the dig it up !

Their village has no electric power, but had clear ideas of how they would benefit from it, so we left them our spare petrol genset that we had acquired with the boat.  A bit rusty but working so we hope that will help them.

From my last mail from Verde Islad we motored to Taytay, the old spanish capital of Palawan with a fort and old church.  There at a small pizza restaurant overlooking the town we were told of Flower Island,  a small resort on a private island about 30 miles NE of Taytay.  So on leaving we went to look for the island without complete directions as none of the names we were given appear on the chart.  We spotted it behind some very extensive pearl farms and after finding a way around anchored off the resort.  The owners are two french brothers, the setting is idyllic if isolated, they accomadate 10 guests max, and will open a dive centre in a few months.  We took their future dive master for his first dive on their reef as he had no tanks or compressor yet.  The reef was very intersting - it will be good when he is set up.

At Flower island we met several people from a volunteer reef survey team based on nearby Cagdanao island where the CoralCay conservation group take 30 volunteers at a time who pay to spend 3 months living in huts on a remote island performing a detailed survey off the reefs. They spoke of the awkwardness of being guests in the area and so being able to say nothing about the cyanide and dynamite fishing the saw and heard , often at very close range. Palawan seems to suffer more from destructive fishing than other areas we have been to.

We dived at Cagdanao where despite the fishing methods there was great diversity for fish and other marine life. On the motor to Taytay we saw more dolphins very close to the boat, racing us along - so there is hope.

We had a very smooth overnight trip to Coron, no wind and glassy sea, arriving a sunrise to the very dramatic scenary here. Coron island is hard limetsone westhered into steep sharp pinnacles with several lakes inside.  We dived one lake after a rough climb over a ridge, wearing dive gear and tanks just for fun.  The lake was notable for a temperature inversion - the surface was a warm 30c, but at 15m down there is a shimmering boundary layer below which the water is almost 40c. It feels too hot at first and we swam between layers as we swam round looking for the few fish and shrimps that tolerate it.  The sides of the lake looked just the same as above, pinnacles of bare rain eroded limestone, good evidence that the sea level was once much lower.

Coron town owes most of its tourist trade to the diving on a fleet of Japanese fleet supply ships sunk one morning in 1944 by US planes.  With 7 wrecks and 5 dive shops its not unusual to share a wreck with another group.
The wrecks are at reasonanble depths - not requireing special gases or decompression - Anne made her first dive to 30m yesterday on the Kogyo Maru.
In two days we dived on five of the wrecks so we feel we have seen enough rusty hulls for a while.

The ships have been scoured for loose souvenirs and scrap years ago so they are just steel hulls, but good wide spaces to swim through between holds, engine rooms, and superstructures.  On them are plenty of corals and fish, we found two more species of Nudibranches we had not see before and flatworms we had not seen swimming before - they size and shape of a brightly coloures elastoplast and undulate their edges to swim.

We are leaving here this afternoon for an overnight trip of 100 miles to Boracay but we will move along next week through Tablas and Banton to be back at Puerto Galera by the end of the week.

Best wishes from the

Wrecked Biscuits

Puerto Galera, 13:30N 120:56E
4 June

We are back to PG to get ready for the crossing back to HK later in the month, but we had more excitement on the trip here from Boracay than we expected.  We planned to take three days to have time to dive near some of the islands on the way, and the first Island we headed for was Romblon which we missed going south. The wind was very light from the east so we motored in very flat water. We were disturbed when the forward bilge alarm sounded for the first time, it took a few seconds to work out what it was. The cause was that the automatic pump switch had failed - the hull has always leaked some but with the automatic pump we never noticed how much. Till I can replace the float switch we have to run the pump manually once or twice a day.

We got to Romblon rather late in the day and found our planned anchorage was too deep until we were very close to the beach, but there was no light to find another and the wind was very light.  However about 10pm thunderstorms developed with plenty of wind and we dragged the anchor into deep water and the GPS anchor alarm went off. (Since Clinton switched off the built in errors "SA" in civilian GPS on May 1st our GPS anchor alarm has been much more effective) After 30 minutes motoring around we re-anchored  but still very near shore and when wind changed to a light westerly we swung too close and decided at about 1am to set to sea again. All was well motoring gently for two hours until another alarm went off, this time the engine water temperature - a sensor I had thought was broken.  So we had to stop the motor and hoist sails. Very fortunately there was a light but favourable wind since we close to rocks at the north end of Tablas island.  The engine room was too full of steam to do anything immediately so we sailed north west at about 4 kts with ferries and freighters passing as we were in a major shipping route from the southern islands to Manila.

I worked in the engine room once it was day, but could manage about 10min at a time - it was very hot still.  I found the impellor was broken and that a steel bracket for the heat exchanger had been welded to the engine after the pump was last serviced - there was not enough room to get a new impellor in !  I tried cutting an impellor into two slices, it went it but would not prime instelf, so Had to cut off the offending bracket. After 12 hours sailing the motor was running cool again, but we had covered a good distance under sail and in the riht direction. But we thought we better get to PG without further delay, though we could not make it that day, so looked for an anchoarge on the East coats of Mindoro, even though the pilot book says that are none.  But again in early evening the wind was very light and the sea flat so Pola bay looked good, better than Romblon as the bay was evenly sloping from 4m to 20m over mud.  But again thunder deveoped at night with a stiff NE wind and we were on a lee shore with a short fierce chop.  The anchor held firm but none of us slept well for a second night.  Friday things went better with a big tide under us we went up the Verde Island channel to PG at an effective 8kts and anchored back in the same spot we left 4 months ago, but surprisingly still a NE wind.
Back here we have been catching up on the news of the yachts and crews here, took part in their dinghy pub crawl round the bay yesterday.  Our most urgent problem now is the fridge system, it seems to have lost all its gas, and don't know if there has been a slow leak since we started or  a sudden leak recently.  The local ice man shoud be able to help tommorrow, but finding the ozone friendly gas here may be hard/expensive.

The well-alerted Biscuits

Puerto Galera
12 June 2000

We plan to leave here in about 10 days for the 4-5 day trip back to HK.
Since we got here we have spent many days round at Asia Divers, Anne completed her Advanced Open water course and I have started the Divemaster course which I hope to complete before we leave.  Pauline has made a couple of dives as well, and today she has gone to play golf, while I service the engine and genset and the kids catch up on some schoolwork that has slipped last week.

Last Wednesday Pauline and Sean took the ferry to Batangas to meet Adelina for lunch, they also bought the gas we needed to refill the fridge/freezer.  That seems to be working again now but we have not found the leak yet.

The weather seems hotter now since there is rarely any wind, Sean and I sleep on deck now where it is cooler at night.  There are still thunderstorms around most nights but usually they pass in the distance.

You may see reports that an Englishman was lost diving here in PG last week, it happened the day we arrived when the tides and currents were very strong and he became separated from his group at 30m while he was trying to refix his fin that had come off.  Searchs were made for 4 days with planes, boats and helicopters but nothing found. It is thought he never surfaced.  The main cause was that the group was too large for the supervision as most of them were less experienced and conditions were very tricky.

We are taking great care underwater!

Diving for Biscuits

Puerto Galera
Midsummers Day

The forecast we can get by being very patient at the towns internet cafe is very promising for a good SAIL back to HK.  We will see, we will leave Friday and with a possible short stop in Bolinao should get back to HK next Wednesday. There is at least on other yacht here preparing to sail to HK, this is about the last chance before typhoons become quite frequent.

I did the final mechanical checking yesterday and Anne and I went up one mast each to check the rigging - no problems found there.  Pauline did most of the stores buying we need and stored it away, just veg to buy on Friday.

Today we will go to Asia Divers for final dives, we have two sites we want to take pictures.  Firstly to find more nudibranchs (colourful sea slugs) and then to find an elusive harlequin ghost pipefish. I saw plenty of life I wanted to video on several dives last week but never had the camera as I was still doing the course and was leading divers.  Since I did the quick course there were no real student divers for me to supervise, so I had the dive shop staff instead and they 'played' students by wandering off if I turned away, making every mistake possible and generally keeping me challenged. Herding cats would have been easier (even underwater!) However I completed the divemaster course at the weekend and had the divemaster party Monday, four cases of San Mig disappeared in a short time.

Sailor caught something live last night but wouldn't let us see it, a fish or a bat we guess.  Can't see any remains yet !

25 June   16 51N 119 20 E

Never did get through y'day so that mail is below.  We did get into Bolinao last night but not until 9pm, we were delayed avoiding the worst of two thunderstorms so we had to feel our way in in the dark, but GPS chart plotter and sonar proved their worth.
It was worth it, Bolinao is a great secure anchoarge well worth knowing, and we liked the town during our brief explore this morning. Being down to our last 200 pesos we were not shopping for much, but walked the market and looked at the old spanish built church.

So we left at noon today and quickly had sail up and left the Philippine coast with the big gennaker flying.  Now it is down as we were headed but still motor sailing 320 degrees back to HK with ETA Wed. afternoon/evening.

Homing Biscuits

24 June, off coast W coast of Luzon between Capones and Hermana Major

We left PG yesterday lunch time with a forcast of S 15-20kts for the whole S China sea and 2M swells.  The Verde channel was flat, no wind and that is about all we have seen since. Briefly after midnight there was some offshore wind during Pauline's watch and she had us sailing, but it was just draft from a collapsing thunderstrom and did not last long.  Now it is 10am, getting hot with the sea glassy, only broken by flying fish who can go much further when the water is so calm.

HEard another forcast on Rowdy's breakfast net on shortwave this morning, he says SW or WSW 5 to 10 kts.  Even the 5 kts is more than we have but we are still near the coast.  The engine is running well, my water leak repairs are holding and we have plenty of fuel.

We passed another yacht 'Rigel' at dawn , they had left PG for HK a day a head of us but were heading back into Subic to repair a broken gearbox. We were called on the VHF radio by Philippine Navy coast watch, but it seems they just wanted to say Good Morning !  Not the usual interogation.

I've been playing cards with Sean , but I just suggested it was time for handwriting and Maths and he has disappeared !

We are all pleased that today was our first day without taking Malaria tablets since mid April - we have had quite enough of that foul taste.

So by sundown we hope to get to Bolinao, a small port on the bit of Luzon that sticks out towards HK.  I've never been and it sounds interesting, then tommorrow we can start for HK and still expect to be there Wednesday.

It may be the most taxing job today is to change the selection of CD's in the cartridge and get something we have not heard too often already, or never really wanted to hear at all.

Biscuits - sunny-side up

Clearwater Bay Marina,  29 June

Unfortunately the trip is over, we got back into our berth in the marina at lunch time yesterday having motored or motor sailed all the way from Bolinao.  Not the sail we would have liked but I didn't want to wait for typhoon to get some wind !  The sea was so flat coming back that not even Sailor was seasick.

The biggest excitement was finding a bloom of Tricho, a type of blue/geen algae we have been surveying on the trip.  The researchers we were collecting the data for had said if we found a bloom - like a red tide - they would take pictures from a satellite to help them calibrate their system.  After looking for 5 months we finally found a big bloom on the way back, and the satellite pictures are being processed.

Easier to appreciate is that we saw pilot whales, more dolphins and great sun rises and sunsets.  Anne reckoned she saw the green flash again - I missed it this time.

The total trip was 3250 miles, of which we sailed about 520 with the motor off, but many more were motor-sailed.

Now as Fenella reminded us we must put the album together - Anne has accepted the project of editing the video together. Pauline is in charge of the stills. When I get the interface from the camera to the computer fixed I will update the pictures on the website.  I will have Anne & Sean add their own sumaries of the trip there.

What next ?  Well the coming weekend is a holiday and the weather looks good to take the boat out !   Then I have to return to work Monday and settle back to a more normal routine for some years until we have a chance to go on another voyage.

Safely returned Biscuits.